JERUSALEM (Jan. 20)
Premier Golda Meir and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt both signed identical letters from President Nixon Friday detailing the reduction of their respective armed forces in the context of the disengagement agreement signed by the chiefs of staff of the two countries at Kilometer 101 Friday. This was disclosed today in an exclusive story appearing in the Jerusalem Post which also revealed the existence of secret accords between Israel and the U.S. on one hand and Egypt and the U.S. on the other, the contents of which, however, are known to both sides. The Nixon letter, which will not be published, and the secret accords stand out as examples of the adroit diplomacy employed by U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger during his week of shuttling between Jerusalem and Aswan that culminated in the disengagement and arms thinning agreements.
According to the Post, Nixon wrote the letters on Kissinger’s advice. They met Israel’s demand that Egypt make its undertaking to reduce forces directly to Israel and at the same time allowed Egypt the appearance of making its undertaking to the United States since it had refused to give Israel any direct pledges on actions inside its own territory. Though the text of the Nixon letter will not be officially published–details of the arms reduction provisions have already found their way into the U.S. and the Mideast press. No details whatever of the secret accord are allowed to be published although Kissinger made certain that Israel and Egypt both know the contents of the other side’s secret accord with the U.S. The secret U.S.-Egypt accord is understood to include a pledge by Egypt to prepare the Suez Canal for reopening and to restore normal commercial and civilian life to the canal side towns.
The Israel-U.S. secret accord refers to U.S. help in ensuring that both sides adhere to the terms of the disengagement, the Jerusalem Post reported. Observers here feel the Geneva conference will in effect lie fallow until early March, when, according to schedule, the disengagement agreement with Egypt will have been fully implemented. At that time new working groups will be set up by Israel and Egypt at Geneva to discuss various aspects of an overall peace settlement. Israel will insist on early definition of “the nature of the peace” which it sees as vitally affecting all other terms including the border question. By “nature of peace” Israel means whether a final settlement is to be little more than an armistice–or whether, as Israel hopes, it will pave the way to full diplomatic, commercial, cultural and tourism relations in the course of time, as befits two neighboring countries living at peace.
Meanwhile, the next item on the immediate agenda is possible disengagement talks with Syria. To investigate this possibility Kissinger traveled to Damascus today–and was back here briefly tonight with a report on President Hafez Assad’s readiness or not to release names of Israeli POWs and allow Red Cross visits. These are sine qua non for Israel if there is to be any disengagement discussion with Syria. Kissinger in his many hours of talks here last week stressed repeatedly that his impression of Sadat was that he honestly wanted to lead his country to peace and prosperity. The more he met and talked with the man, said Kissinger, the more he was convinced of his sincerity, of his wish to go down in history as the builder of Egypt’s prosperity and economy.
Most Israelis appear to be willing to go along with Kissinger’s view and with that of Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon who both say that Sadat seems to be aiming at peace rather than war–and imply that he ought to be given the chance to prove himself, which this agreement gives him without prejudicing Israel’s vital security interests. The UN role in peacekeeping is not an altogether heartening phenomenon after the 1967 experience. But many people go along with Foreign Minister Abba Eban and Allon who say that the 7000-member UNEF force is protection against sudden or surprise Egyptian aggression. Apparently the force will be removable only at Security Council behest. People here are hoping–for this has not been said–that Israel got undertakings from Kissinger that the U.S. would veto such a move if Israel opposed it.